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When Twitter launched, it asked users a simple question: what are you doing? Blippy, a new startup co-founded by Philip Kaplan of F*cked Company fame, asks an equally simple question: what are you buying?

A bevy of high-profile investors, including Twitter co-founders and CEO Ev Williams, are betting that internet users won't be able to resist answering Blippy's question. They've funded the company to the tune of $1.6m.

Blippy works by allowing users to link their Blippy account to their accounts at popular online services including iTunes, Amazon.com and Netflix. Users can also link a credit card or bank account to Blippy. Once linked, Blippy will automatically track and share purchases. To address the obvious privacy concerns that might arise, users can pause sharing and hide specific purchases that they don't want the rest of the world to know about.

The first thing you'll notice about Blippy is that much of the design, functionality and overall experience mimics Twitter. The profile page design, for instance, is clearly based on Twitter's and there's also a suggested user list. While you can blame Blippy from taking its cue from Twitter, it's a bit of a clone and that, to me at least, is uninspiring.

From an overall experience perspective, Blippy seems to be missing something. Twitter is like a huge chat room. While there's a lot of noise, there's plenty of signal as well, from insightful conversations to interesting links. In short, Twitter offers a nice combination of social interaction and content discovery. Blippy? I'm not sure what to make of it. After following some of the suggested users, I failed to find anything of interest. For instance, I don't really know what I'm supposed to do with the knowledge that Leo LaPorte purchased an A-DATA Turbo 16 GB Class 6 microSDHC Flash Memory Card with SD Adapter from Amazon.com.

Which brings up an important point: even though there are lots of people who won't share their purchases publicly, I think there are plenty who will consider it. For that reason, Blippy is just one of many websites we'll see trying to make consumer commerce more social.

But there absolutely has to be an appropriate level of value provided in return, especially if users are going to share information that is often very personal, like their purchases. A good example a company that provided value in exchange for personal data is Mint.com. By linking financial accounts to Mint.com, Mint.com provides its users with helpful tools that can help them better manage their money. Blippy lacks that same sort of value and in my opinion, is unlikely to succeed unless it finds a way to take the purchasing data users share and return real value to them.

The good news is that in our sharing-friendly internet culture, there are countless opportunities to take this type of data and do some really interesting and cool things with it. Inevitably, some startups will seize those opportunities.

Patricio Robles

Published 15 January, 2010 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2381 more posts from this author

Comments (3)

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Marty

It seems to me that Blippy would be better suited to being more of an add-on, or app for Twitter; an optional sign up that could enrich some users experience. It doesn't seem to warrant a standalone platform to me. I'd love to know the justification for the $1.6m funding when all they seem to have done is copy the look, feel, and design of Twitter and simply change the question it asks!

over 6 years ago

Grant Whiteside

Grant Whiteside, Technical Director at Ambergreen Internet Marketing

Blippy in its young niave state is so easily spammed,leaving its comments so open to manipulation.

Q: "What are you buying"

A:"What ever you pay me to say that I'm buying" 

Yup, it's another form of user generated content that plays on the fact that so many sad cases need to spend their lives seeking public approval, living their lives in public like some pathetic reality show.

Like so many forums it will fall foul quickly to those that feel inclined to be followed or feel a need to be heard, regardless of the validity of their claims.

over 6 years ago

Billie Andersen

Billie Andersen, User Experience Consultant at Foviance

I am dubious about a few things; the number of people who will want to publicise purchases, with the added risk of accidentally sharing private purchases. Any time a present is bought online the user will have to actively hide the purchase, which seems both risky and long-winded. (Privacy and speed are for many people two factors in favour of online shopping.) The question of how many people are interested in other people's purchases to the extent that they will use a platform dedicated to this information is also up for debate.

I agree with the above comment that it does not warrant a standalone platform, but would rather be more fitting of an add-on for those inclined to this sort of sharing. In general, people have so many social sites that they use; twitter, facebook, social bookmarking sites.... that the market needs something exceptional to make people want to sign up to another.

over 6 years ago

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